For the record, I'm not buying the idea that LaDainian Tomlinson is really interested in the Jets. Based on experience, what I've heard and the way this all looks, my money says this is a sham visit to try and get the Vikings -- the team for which Tomlinson really wants to play -- to improve their offer. Happens all the time, and there's nothing wrong with it, but that's what this looks like.
But I've been wrong before, and Tomlinson is actually in Florham Park today, and the Jets appear to be serious about trying to sign him, whether it turns out they're being used or not. So it's worth, on a slow, rainy Friday, playing along and asking the question of whether Tomlinson is a good idea for the Jets.
Personally, I love it. And yes, I watched Tomlinson play this year. And yes, I've spoken to scouts who say he's got nothing left. But this isn't about bringing in the Tomlinson of three and four years ago. That guy is gone and he's not on the market. And if he were, he wouldn't be what the Jets need anyway. The Jets are ready to make Shonn Greene their workhorse No. 1 back, with (they hope a recovered) Leon Washington as their change of pace.
What they need from Tomlinson, or whoever comes in to replace Thomas Jones, is a few carries per game -- say eight or 10 -- mostly at or near the goal line. They need somebody who can catch the ball out of the backfield. And they need somebody who can be a mentor to Greene. Based on what we saw from Tomlinson this year, he could contribute in that reduced role as long as he agrees to do it. And based on who he is and what he brings with him in terms of pedigree and reputation, the mentor thing would happen on its own.
Think about what Tomlinson must be to a guy like Greene. Greene was in high school when Tomlinson was dominating the NFL and winning fantasy leagues for people single-handedly. Tomlinson is a god to a running back of Greene's age who's just starting out in the league. If Tomlinson will sign with the Jets, their first move should be to give him the locker right next to Greene's and make sure Greene listens to everything the guy has to say.
As for the on-field stuff, Tomlinson showed a little bit of ability as a goal-line back last year. Given his experience and his football smarts, along with his ability to catch the ball, he'd be a useful weapon in short-yardage situations. At the very least, he'd bring a different look from the between-the-tackles style of Greene.
And to the question of whether Tomlinson would accept a reduced role at this point in his career, I refer you to his travel itinerary, which yesterday included a stop in Minnesota. Why would Tomlinson be talking to the Vikings, who employ Adrian Peterson, if he weren't prepared to accept a secondary on-field role and a veteran mentor role in the locker room? It's clear that, whether it was the tough sledding of 2009 or being cut from the only team he'd ever played for, something has made it clear to Tomlinson that he's at a different point in his career now and, if he's to find work, it's not going to be the same kind of work he did for years in San Diego.
If you're a Jets fan, you have to love your team's big-game hunter mentality. Tomlinson is a huge name -- an all-time NFL great who would help sell PSLs and seats and get people excited about the Jets, as if there weren't already a few pretty good reasons to do that. I don't think the Jets can get him, but I don't have any doubt that it's worth their time and effort to try.